FW-47 -- How to Lower Your Dry-Cleaning Bills

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:

* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

Regular edition, March 7, 2005 Issue No. 47

- What's new (How to Lower Your Dry-Cleaning Bills)
- Bargain Roundup: (Ironing Tools)
- Frugal tips (Tea Leaf Cleaning, or How to Reduce Dust)
- Credits

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Dear Frugal Readers,

There comes a point in every content-writer's life where they
just run out of ideas, or in my case, run out of time! So, in
the absence of any startling frugal revelations this week, I
thought I'd revisit an old favorite topic - how to lower your
dry-cleaning bills.

To those whose work requires formal dress, or whose husbands'
(or wives'!) jobs require dress shirts, dry cleaning
can be a substantial expense. In fact, according to the All
Japan Dry-Cleaning and Laundry Association (yes, there is
one!), the average household in Japan spent 10,825 yen on
dry-cleaning at one of the 113,953 receiving shops in 2002
Here are some basic hints to help lower your costs:

1) Shop around for the best prices. There are several types
of dry-cleaning shop in Japan: the "receiving shops" (small
neighborhood shops, or shops inside of supermarkets) that
only receive clothes, general cleaning shops (which do
pressing and cleaning on premises), and "combined
facilities" (which might feature a coin laundry or other
services. While you might be limited in the shops you can
use due to geographic or time concerns, compare price lists
for the items you dry clean the most (suits, skirts, or
"Y-shirts" (men's business shirts)). Some neighborhood shops
in competitive areas offer good pricing or good deals
for repeat customers (every 10th item is free, etc).

2) Reduce the amount you need to dry clean, by taking better
care of your clothes! Tips for this include wearing "underarm
patches" on blouses (disposable kind) to reduce staining (or
undershirts for men), using a handkerchief or large napkin
when eating, and hanging your clothes up and airing
them as soon as you get home. Also, only buy clothes that
do NOT require dry-cleaning. Synthetic fabrics such as
polyester blends and others tend to wrinkle less. Some
menswear stores offer 'memory' shirts that retain their shape
after washing when air dried, and might only require a very
light iron and no starch. While the initial cost may be
greater, you can recoup your investment later in lower
dry-cleaning costs.

3) Finally, the frugal favorite: Do It Yourself! You can
wash, dry, and press a surprising amount of dry-clean only
clothes, given the right tools and preparation. First, some
items you should NOT attempt to do yourself: wool fabric
blends (they shrink), structured or tailored suit jackets
(or clothing with a lining), leather, suede, and natural
silks. There are whole books devoted to home fabric care and
dry-cleaning, so I will only go into the basics here. Be sure
and treat stains ahead of time with the proper stain remover
(check http://www.heloise.com/staincalendar.html for a good
start). Use the gentlest wash and spin cycle on your washing
machine, and place the item in a mesh net before washing
(available at 100-yen shops). Air dry, and then press. I have
successfully 'home-cleaned' silk-cashmere mix sweaters, rayon
skirts and shirts, curtains, linens, and several other
'dry-clean only' pieces.

Warning: Proceed with home dry-cleaning at your own risk,
and if you absolutely cannot live without an item, it is best
to dry-clean it rather than ruin it permanently.

Best of luck in lowering your dry-cleaning bills!

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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+++ BARGAIN ROUNDUP: Ironing Tools
One of the best ways to ensure that you save money on your
dry-cleaning bills is to equip yourself with the best laundry
and ironing tools - a good steam iron and a nice large
ironing board.

Rowenta Professional Luxe Iron (DM800) 26,959 yen (!)
All right, I'm sure that you are shaking your head and
wondering exactly why I have chosen to put a $250 iron on
a Frugal Japan bargain roundup. I can only answer that every
housekeeping book I have every read has recommended Rowenta's
professional-class irons as the best, in terms of weight,
performance, and ease of use. This iron was also selected tops
by "WhichOnline" for 2004. I could find only one place that
sells it in Japan: Ace Hardware's Japan website. If
you're serious about ironing, this is the iron for you.

Eupa Steam Iron TSK-724CDS (1,680 yen)
http://www.amazon.co.jp/ (Click on Home & Kitchen section)
However, if you're more like me, and iron once in a blue moon,
then something like this should certainly fulfill your needs.
Most irons sold in Japan in the 1,500-3,000 yen price range
are sturdy, come with a variety of heat settings, and have
a steam compartment. They do the job just fine! Your local
electronics store might have a good price on another similar
iron, but I personally like this EUPA'S (vintage I-Mac)
color scheme.

Standing Ironing Board (4,800 yen)
After too many hours spent crouching over a tiny
Japanese-size ironing board, a few years ago I gave in and
purchased a large, Western-style standing ironing board.
It was (I'm sad to say) over 10,000 yen. Now, cheaper models
are available, like this simple white ironing board. It
folds flat, and features a handy wire basket to rest your
iron on. At 4,800 yen, it's not a steal compared to the
US$15-ironing boards one can get at the local Wal-Mart, but
it's not bad either. Costco also usually carries this type
of ironing board for around 5,000-6,000 yen.

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+++ FRUGAL TIPS (Tea-Leaf Cleaning, or How to Reduce Dust)
One Frugal Japan reader discovered that the leftover leaves
from the teapot can be useful in housekeeping as well.

"Not sure if this will keep the dust at bay for longer
than other methods, but the traditional Japanese method is
to use old tea leaves. Take the used green tea leaves from
the pot and sweep them round the floor with a broom. It takes
up all the dust and traps it in the moist leaves. They use
this method at the school where I teach and I'm told it really
keeps the dust down."

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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

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